15 ways to shake up your morning run
Running is a great way to stay healthy; it strengthens your heart, lowers cholesterol and keeps your bones healthy. The release of endorphins from a run after a stressful day at work can boost your mental and physical well-being, helping you to stay more positive. Best of all, running is totally free!
Turn your run into a social event by jogging with friends, or make the most of the alone time, whatever the weather. Running outside can also help to boost your vitamin D levels, vital for healthy bones. They say variety is the spice of life, and by varying your runs, you'll stay motivated, so you're less likely to get bored. We've come up with 15 ways you can vary your morning run; running shoes at the ready!
#1. Step up to the challenge
Instead of sticking to the straight and narrow, find some stairs – preferably ones in a park or somewhere that isn't too busy. We don't recommend tube stations for this! Run up them, then walk back down and repeat. The walk down is your recovery. Adding this simple routine to your daily run is a great way to boost your workout.
#2. Get off the beaten track
It can be boring running through the same urban cityscape every morning, no matter how beautiful your city is. Woods and trails are not only more scenic and peaceful, they also provide you with a new challenge – surfaces can be uneven, which tests your co-ordination. Always ensure you're wearing the right kind of running shoes and pick a trail that's likely to have other runners, cyclists or dog walkers around, particularly if you're running very early in the morning.
#3. Make it a social activity
Instead of running alone, take a friend or fitness buddy along, or sign up for a running club in your area. Most clubs meet for runs either before or after work, and there's usually the opportunity to socialise afterwards over a healthy breakfast, lunch or drinks. Running with a group can really help to give you the extra motivation you need.
#4. Mix up the tempo
Remember our article on 2014's best running apps? Apps such as TempoRun and RockMyRun organise your music library by tempo, so you'll always have a beat that keeps you moving. Or just make sure you have a good mix of music to hand for warm-ups, running at speed and rest intervals.
#5. Choose the treadmill
Grey, cold, rainy mornings are enough to put even the most dedicated runner off that early morning jog. But before you pull the covers back over your head and snuggle up, why not head for the gym and take a run on the treadmill? You can vary your distance, speed and incline without worrying about the weather or running conditions. Plus, you'll be nice and warm!
#6. Get competitive
Instead of running alone, rope in a friend who runs a bit faster than you. There's nothing better than a fit friend to motivate you and make your lungs and legs work that little bit harder, whether you're out for a gentle jog or sprinting to the finish line.
#7. Take a day off
Recovery days are just as important as exercise days; everyone needs a rest from running. Overtraining puts you at risk of injury, fatigue and soreness. So hit the snooze button one more time for a bit more sleep, or get up and enjoy a healthy, leisurely breakfast instead of a run this morning.
#8. Set yourself a goal
Signing up for a run gives you a challenge to work towards and gets your adrenaline pumping. Find a race in your area and run for a cause you support. There's nothing better to boost your enthusiasm than the challenge of running against others.
#9. Head for the hills
There's no need to stick to flat routes when running, so try to choose a route that includes at least a few hills – there are apps that can help you plan the best routes. A long hill that that involves a slow climb challenges your stamina, builds endurance and boosts mental toughness, or choose a steep incline to work on your aerobic fitness. You can always run repeats, walking back down to the base as your recovery.
#10. Take it in your stride
Try strides for a great way to boost your endorphins and stretch out your leg muscles. Run around 100m, gradually speeding up to around 95% of your maximum speed, and gradually slowing down towards the end, then repeat. Do as many repeats as you like, after all, this is your run!
#11. Repeat yourself
For the perfect way to vary your morning run, use repeats and recovery intervals. Pick a time period or distance, such as 60 seconds or 100m. Use that time to push yourself, so run as hard and fast as you can. Then set a rest period, during which you can fully rest, walk or slowly jog. Repeat. This helps to get your heart rate going and boosts your workout. But remember, the longer your repeat, the longer your recovery period should be.
#12. Build endurance
Running isn't just about being the fastest, endurance is important too. By slowing things down and running for longer, you can gradually build endurance and stamina; great if you're training for a marathon, but also great just because. Be careful not to build up too fast though. You should aim to increase your weekly distance by around 10% or less a week, to avoid injury.
#13. Try 'pyramid' training
Pyramids use your shortest repeat and gradually increase it until the longest distance is reached, then they gradually decrease. So, for example, say you start running at 200m, you could increase to 400m, 600m and then 800m. Then you'll drop back down to 600m, 400m and 200m, stopping for a recovery interval between each repeat. If you find it easier, you can use intervals of time rather than distance, such as 45 seconds, 60 seconds, 75 seconds etc.
#14. Incorporate weights
You already know that weight training improves your strength, but did you know it can also help to guard against injury when running? You should try to add core training and strength training to your run – around 15 minutes of bodyweight exercise helps to strengthen your leg muscles and your core. For example, you could do five lunges and five squats every five minutes, or a set of walking lunges after every ten minute run.
#15. Try Tabata training
Tabata training is all about sprinting. So you'll push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, than take a (well-earned) 10 second rest. This should be repeated eight times – you can add in stairs or inclines to suit. The workout takes around four minutes, but if you're a beginner runner, start with just a couple of repeats and build up gradually to avoid injury.